School to increase in size to cope with growing demand and fix SEND place shortage

PUBLISHED: 07:13 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 07:13 25 September 2019

Staff and KS 1&2 pupils at Westhaven School, celebrating as school is in the top six of most improved schools in the country.    Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Staff and KS 1&2 pupils at Westhaven School, celebrating as school is in the top six of most improved schools in the country. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Archant

An Uphill school with a 'wonderful reputation' will increase in size and take younger pupils to cope with demand.

Westhaven School educates children with complex learning difficulties and has 120 pupils aged seven to 16.

Finding somewhere for the first three years of education causes real struggles for parents, so the Ellesmere Road school will swell to 138 spaces and start taking children as young as four.

Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council's executive member for children's services, said at this month's executive meeting: "There's a shortage of SEND provision for our children in North Somerset.

"This school has worked tirelessly to offer an excellent provision for our children.

"They have identified the need to extend the age range. It will provide 12 new key stage one places. This has been a problem for parents with younger children. It's been a considerable difficulty.

"Demand is increasing. The cohort has grown by 40 per cent since 2015. We have an ongoing need."

Pupils at Westhaven have conditions like autism, ADHD or hearing loss that have been recognised through an education, health and care plan.

A recent review found expanding the school can prevent children having to travel outside North Somerset to be educated.

Ten youngsters have already been identified who would benefit from a reception-aged placement in a special school.

Four places are available at Baytree Special School - also in Weston - but the other six would need a high-level of assistance, including one-to-one support, if they were to be placed in a mainstream school.

Cllr Hugh Gregor said: "Parents are desperate when the only other solution is children getting shuttled off to schools miles away. Travelling costs being what they are, it's a desperate situation. This solution would be a superb gesture to that neglected group of pupils."

Westhaven will make use of space used by Parklands primary, which is set to relocate.

Ward councillor John Ley-Morgan said: "The school is very highly thought of in the area and residents are very protective of it.

"It's got a wonderful reputation and plays a part in the local community. This is supported by me and all the local people."

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